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The Business of Creating a Cultural Exchange

Creating a business isn't always about the endgame of selling a product. For Clinton Jones, owner of Magnum Opus Hair Salon in D.C., it's about creating a cultural exchange.

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Behind the Review host and Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week’s episode of the podcast.

Magnum Opus Hair Salon

Creating a business isn’t always about the endgame of selling a product. For Clinton Jones, owner of Magnum Opus Hair Salon outside of Washington D.C., it’s about creating a cultural exchange. In this week’s episode, we take a look at the journey of someone who went seven months without a haircut in the pandemic, turned to Yelp, and came out on the other side with a growing discussion—in addition to a stylish cut.

Clinton is first and foremost a hairdresser, but equally as important to his business—and what he points to as their key differentiator—is his role as an artist and the aforementioned cultural exchange. In his words, “I have been gifted and/or cursed with the inability to make small talk about nothing. I just have no idea how people have so much conversation about absolutely nothing. So my conversation is very substantive, and it’s part of the way I design, part of what we style.”

In addition to using body language and signals to determine how to style for them, he also uses them as a way to understand his customers. In return, he allows them to get to know him as a person, so they can create a real connection. “It makes them more comfortable in the space, and we can have a more honest exchange. So that leads us down a road of actually talking about real things. And in a place like D.C., where people are highly educated, the conversations are incredible. Nothing's off the table.”

So let’s get back to our Yelp reviewer, Diane M. She was looking for a new stylist and really wanted to support a local hair salon. During her haircut, she was taken aback by Clinton’s artwork—and one piece in particular. Not understanding the piece, she decided to ask Clinton about the choice and have an open conversation about the meaning behind it: expression and empowerment of women.

Magnum Opus Hair Salon is a place where people can go for so much more than a haircut and it’s because of the business owner. It’s the environment Clinton works so hard to achieve.

Here are a few things business owners can learn from Clinton Jones:

Your business can be more than the product. We’ve heard in so many episodes that people remember how you “made them feel,” so think about that in the vision of your business. Think about what you want to be known for. Is it great haircuts, or is it a great place to have an open, honest conversation? And to get a damn good haircut as well.

Be respectful but unafraid. For Clinton, he likes to have real cultural exchanges—ones that can be a bit uncomfortable at times but that result in something special. Create a trust with your customers that allows you to have a deeper conversation.

Create a sense of community. Hospitality is essential. When you open your business, think about how you want your customers to feel that hospitality and sense of community through the way you operate. It will inevitably keep people coming back.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Clinton and Diane, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Emily Washcovick

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As Yelp’s Senior Field Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert, Emily is responsible for building a thriving network of local business owners, operators and marketers through education and networking events (now, exclusively virtual). She hosts events and webinars to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management and all things digital marketing. Her knowledge encompasses countless industries and through thought leadership and speaking engagements, she’s able to share insights that business owners of all kinds can leverage for the future of their business.


Emily is also host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media that features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences—whether positive or negative —giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings.